You may have seen the media coverage of the Love Your Sister Big Heart Project on Wednesday the 10th May in Canberra, it was huge. If you are new to my blog here is what you need to know, Connie Johnson from Love Your Sister, wanted to break the Guinness book of records for the longest line of 5c coins with the goal of raising $1m towards Cancer research. Named the “Big Heart Project” the idea was to form the coins into a giant love heart to symbolise Connie’s huge heart, not only did they smash the record they doubled their goal raising over $2.2m for the Garvan Institute and we were there to witness this true act of selfless love unfold.
It was our first work trip away as a team so I decided to close the studio for a few days to focus our energy into fundraising at the Big Heart Project. A few weeks earlier Connie had called asking me if I would like to attend the event to promote my humble little project. Since thousands of Love Your Sister “villagers” would be attending, the hope was that I would collect more hearts and create awareness about my “A heart as big as yours” artwork. We were fully equipped with supplies and materials for the project but what we weren’t prepared for was the outpouring of love and emotion from the village that gathered together as one to support Connie and Sam in their quest to see cancer gone for good.
I must say Canberra put on perfect weather for the event and we woke to a sunny and frosty 1 degree. We would be on our feet for the next 15 hrs but in hindsight every minute was worth it. The Big Heart Project was held at an outdoor netball venue, on the ground was an enormous heart spanning about the size of two or three netball courts lined in a white picket fence. When we arrived at 6:30am the heart was white and empty but as night fell it turned into a sea of glittering silver which was pure magic. I’m sure every person there wanted to climb the barrier and make a snow (coin) angel- it was that enticing.
We set up our stand and within minutes imprint donations for our ceramic hearts were rolling in. I met so many beautiful people that day, some were cancer victims themselves who had travelled far and wide to show their support and throw in their jar of 5c pieces into the giant heart. I remember one lady who was in a wheelchair paralyzed from the waist down waiting patiently in line. I asked her where she was from and she had flown in from Melbourne to be part of the day, to take her imprints I had to kneel beside her and take her imprints on her lap, I felt humbled being at her feet.. without her knowing it she taught me a great lesson about determination and to never give up even when life gets the better of you. When I had completed a heart imprint I made it a point to give each donor a hug and to my surprise so many people sobbed in my arms. So many embraced the concept of the artwork and vowed to visit Sydney at it’s unveiling, I couldn’t be more humbled. Throughout the day Connie and Sam addressed the crowd and were kind enough to give us a mention, once she spoke people were literally marching to our stand throwing us money for the artwork. It was crazy!
Throughout the day I remember glancing up and seeing long lines of people queuing to have their 5c coins weighed and thrown into the heart, which looked more like a wishing well. To give you an idea of the sheer scale of the 5c donations, an SES team were called in at the end of the event to shovel the coins into drums. Towards the closing Sam had announced that they had raised over $2m and everyone cheered and cried. Connie did her final speech thanking everyone again for coming and supporting the charity. “This is the best day of my life. Everyone here is here for love, for passion, a cure. There’s sadness, there’s celebration” she said. She also mentioned that in the lead up to the event it took a lot of her energy and time away from her loved ones. “As of tonight, I will be retiring. I will be focusing on my children, and spending the time with them that they need and what I’m desperately longing for”. People wept as it felt like her official goodbye. If it was, she did it in a remarkable way bringing a community together in love and bringing out the best of humanity. There was so much to celebrate but how could anyone really be happy knowing that Connie’s beautiful life would be cut short no matter how many millions were raised.
We said goodbye to Canberra the following day and I left with a fully charged heart ready to hit the ground running collecting more hearts for the project. We had now reached $10k in donations which was incredible. I had accepted the fact that I probably wouldn’t get the chance to hear from Connie again, she was so busy at the event surrounded by thousands of well wishers and media buzzing around her that all I could do was watch her from a distance and hear her voice during speeches. I wish I had the chance to at least say goodbye and to thank her for inspiring me to seize EVERY moment of my life, to show love and kindness and to always dream BIG.
The day I arrived home my eldest daughter Millie and I were snuggled up on the lounge ready for a nap when my phone buzzed on the coffee table. I was in two minds to pick it up as I was exhausted but lucky I glanced at my phone as the name “Connie Johnson” appeared. I answered the phone in disbelief and managed to push out a “hello?” (it was that kind of hello when you’re not sure if someone has pocket called you or not) “Hello Marie how are you?” she said in a soft soothing voice. “How was I?” the eyes and hearts of Australia had been fixated on her and her ailing health yet she was asking me (a nobody, she had only met once how I was?) We spoke for some time and she apologised for not being able to see me at the event as she was so busy. (Why was she apologising to me? It was all too much!) I asked her how she was feeling post Big Heart Project and she said simply “I’m still floating”. I couldn’t be happier to hear those words. She asked me how the response to my artwork was and I gave her the run down. During our conversation I felt that she was hoping that perhaps the artwork would be complete so that she could see it in all it’s glory while she was still alive. We spoke for a while and I left the conversation with a new mission, to get this artwork complete ASAP so I could make this dream come true for her. Come to think of it, raising the $2.2 million was her gift to the Garvan Institute. This artwork would be a personal gift for her. It involved her physical mark, her love, her heart that would be on display for many generations to come. So now I am in the greatest race of my life as we don’t know how much time Connie has left. I have grand plans for the next couple of months to collect as many hearts as I can. To date I have 1757 hearts to collect and i am determined to find them all. If you have read this far into my blog then why not help me make this dream a reality for this amazing human being who just wants to help others. In her latest book she said “I want to help to find a cure for Cancer so no other family member has to say goodbye to a loved one suffering from this disease” she is right! Let’s do it.
If you would like to donate a heart please click here and look out for my next blog, which will explain in detail the events I will line up so that you can get your heart imprint made. Thank you for your support and I can’t wait to give you a big hug soon!
P.S my special thanks to my amazing staff Kiri and Amanda for their support and love I couldn’t have done it without you.